Simon Dunn was celebrating at LA Pride when news of the Orlando shootings broke. Here, he opens up about how he is determined never to let the haters win.

Lying in my hotel room in West Hollywood, I’m so happy being back in such an accepting and LGBT friendly area. I’m so comfortable being myself. I don’t feel the need to ‘tone it down’ or hide that I’m a proud gay man.

But in this same hotel room I’m glued too the TV watching the horrific events occurring in Orlando where almost 100 people from my community have been gunned down and killed or injured for simply being who they are. Forty-nine amazing young people with their entire lives ahead of them taken before their time. My heart is broken!

We spend our entire lives in a ‘gay bubble’. Big cities, LGBT friends and accepting families. It’s so easy to forget that perhaps our community hasn’t come as far as we’d like to assume. There’s a clear reason we move to larger cities.

But as the years pass by and we to look for acceptance we seem to forget that there’s hate still out there. It’s so easy to forget that hate when you’ve intentionally surrounded yourselves with love. Which is exactly what these victims did. They were in a place where they felt safe until someone burst into their lives and caused so much havoc.

I look back to when I first ventured into a gay bar, as a sad, lost and confused gay 18-year-old. Never in my life had I felt so accepted, after spending my entire youth feeling the opposite. This incident has hit where it hurts and is way too close too home. This could have happened in any LGBT venue across the world.

I look back over the last 10 years of my out and proud life. I can’t even count on one hand how many times I’ve used that hand to hold that of another’s in public, and even then I don’t think there’s been I time I’ve done it without worrying how others feel around me.

I’ve never kissed a guy in public unless it was in a gay bar. I’ve been in long term relationships and found myself struggling to even show my affection for them in public. I’ve spent my entire adult life in fear of how others feel about me, again for the simple reason of me being me.

Since the events in Orlando the amount of hateful messages on my social media profiles has increased dramatically. I have had people telling me that I’m disgusting, that I’m going to hell. What these people and what the gunman in Orlando don’t realise is that their hate only motivates me and my community to make a difference and to make sure that we remain strong.

I have wanted to voice my feelings, thoughts and theories about the ‘gay bubble’ me and many gay guys live in for sometime now, but I could never find the words to express what I meant. But tonight, as tears roll down my face, words are all I’ve got. All I’ve got today is words, pride and the motivation to encourage my community to be strong and be united against those who cause pain.

Until hatred for the LGBT community is a thing of the past I will continue to fight. I’ll continue to be an advocate and continue to be a role model as best I can. People may hate us but they certainly won’t stop or silence us.

We still have a long way to go and a battle on our hands but I’m prepared to fight this battle. Because this is the one fight that means more too me than anything. And I know we will win.

Be proud and be yourself!

Simon Dunn x